Monday, February 16, 2015

the 2014 book report part three

You can read the first part of this by clicking here... and then continue onto the second part by clicking here...

Alright, ten more books to go... let's do it!

Book 26 of 2014... "Glengarry Glen Ross", a play by David Mamet, also known for it's incredible movie adaptation.  It was short, it was thrilling, but the movie is even better. 

I started "Gone Girl" back in 2013 and got about an hour into it, and left it for something else.  Having seen the movie, I went back to the book, and was immediately sucked in for good... Gillian Flynn weaves an intricate, twisted tale where you find yourself not really liking anybody, yet rooting for at least one or two people... if you don't know the major twist in the middle, I won't tell you, but if you aren't familiar with it, it's one heckuva twist.

The book is a duel narrative, told first from Nick's point of view, then from Amy's, then back to Nick's, then back to Amy, telling us the story of a husband who has lost his wife, and a wife who's dealing with a cheating husband and more.  And the ending?  Whew. 

From major intensity to slow burn, next we picked up "Revival" by Stephen King... you meet Jamie Morton as a six year old who meets the new local pastor Charles Jacobs.  Things get a little strange not too long afterwards, with Rev. Jacobs obsession with electricity and his subsequent meltdown after a huge tragedy... we then follow Jamie through his life's ups and downs, randomly running into Charles Jacobs at various times.  It all leads to a climax that is both unexpected and insane, and it left me a little unsatisfied.  Good book, not great.

A little book called "Stuff Christians Life" by Jon Acuff was a good change of pace from the craziness of the previous two.  Back when he was Jonathan Acuff, he writes essays on everything churchy like how to not be judged when people don't see you put something in the offering plate (because you tithe online), the glory of side hugs vs full frontal hugs, hip youth pastors and metro worship leaders, and other takes on pop culture.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I'm also a fan of his blog--if you don't like his blog, then you probably won't care for this book as much.

Book 30 of 2014 was written by Leonard Kinsey, who has done a few adult-themed novels set around Walt Disney World.  This one is called "Habst & the Disney Saboteurs", where the main character, an unlovable loser named Reggie "Habst" Habstermeister finds himself in trouble when attractions in Walt Disney World begin to break down while he's in the vicinity.  His friend, or at least the only guy who can actually tolerate him, Charlie joins him to figure out what's happening in this situation--and it's a little crazy, I tell ya. 

Also, Charlie is a character in another book called "Hollow World", by Nick Pobursky, which makes me wonder if Leonard Kinsey and Nick Pobursky is the same guy?  Or just from the same publishing company?

My friend Writer Chris Holmes wrote a book called "Note to Myself: Thoughts to Challenge and Encourage", and its not only charming, but...well, challenging and encouraging.  He's so good at just writing one liners that make you think, that make you ponder and that motivate you.  You can shoot through this book in a half hour or less, but you want to come back a few times and really concentrate on many of the lines... personally, I would have called it "Note to Self" cause it flows better, but overall, it's an excellent book to read, to remember and to go back to.

I picked up a book that, before I even read it, I knew I was going to like, mostly because "The Princess Bride" is one of my top ten favorite films of all time.  Cary Elwes, who portrayed "Westley", wrote "As You Wish: Inconceivable Takes from the Making of the Princess Bride", a behind the scenes narrative of the iconic movie... not only is its a first person narrative from Cary, he also gets quips and stories from Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), Rob Reiner (the director), Robin Wright (Buttercup), Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) and several more--and in the audiobook, he has those people actually read many of their parts in the book.  It was funny, it was a love letter to the movie and its fans, and its full of Andre the Giant tales, including how Elwes broke his toe on Andre's oversized ATV 4-wheeler, then had to do the Dread Pirate Roberts confronting Buttercup on the mountaintop scene (notice the way Westley, aka, The Man in Black, sits down on the rock and how his leg is extended... that's because in real life, he's in extreme pain). 

If you are a fan of the movie, you should read this book... it's simply wonderful.

Book 33 of the year, "You Are a Writer (so start acting like one)" is by Jeff Goins, and is a simple pep talk to let people like myself know that yes, I'm a writer, so own it, so do it, so write it down.  It also goes through a few things you'll need to know, including platforms, passion for what you do, and is relatively short, so I breezed through it in an afternoon with a few notes here and there.

Book 34 was a last minute pickup, as I saw the end of the year approaching... on Tuesday nights, I always flip through the new releases and see what has just come out... lo and behold, Matthew Modine has written a behind-the-scenes account of "Full Metal Jacket" aptly titled "Full Metal Jacket Diaries".  The book goes through some of the trials and hardship it took for the movie to get made, directed by the ever eclectic and possibly insane late Stanley Kubrick.  And though you can tell Matthew Modine has a healthy amount of respect for Kubrick, it's pretty obvious that he feels Kubrick was a little insane and a lot intense.

The book is not very long, and seemed a fitting end to the year!  In fact, I went ahead and outdid myself by reading "Big Driver", by Stephen King, for 36 books for the year... it's a great little tale about a saleswoman who listens to the wrong person and ends up in a nightmare.  And gets some revenge for it later. 

But wait... on December 30th, I realized something... "Big Driver" and "A Good Marriage" (not mentioned yet, for the reasons I'm about to explain) which I read in July, are actually part of a larger book called "Full Dark, No Stars" by Stephen King.  They are novellas... so they don't count.  Meaning, I didn't read 36 books, I read 34.  And I had about 36 hours to finish the 35th, or miss the goal for the year.

So I downloaded the whole of King's "Full Dark, No Stars", and went to it... there are four novellas in this--the aforementioned (and best) of them, "Big Driver"... "A Good Marriage", a tense tale about a woman who discovers something a little terrifying about her husband (which pulls from a news story that was huge at the time of the writing, but I won't tell you what it is and spoil it for you)... "1922", a first person account about a man in Nebraska confessing to the murder of his wife, and how his family falls apart... and "Fair Extension", where a man has a run-in with a Devil-persona and gets more than he could ever wish for.

Thankfully, having read 2 of the 4 novellas, I only had to do 1/2 the book... and around 6pm on New Year's Eve, I finished it!  So, officially, 35 books in one single year, and I guarantee I'd never done that before.

So, here are my top ten books of the year...

The rest of my top ten first time reads in 2014, in order:
  1. "Moment Maker" by Carlos Whittaker... sticks with you, and I made notes.  So challenging to make every moment go unwasted.
  2. "I Don't Know What You Know Me From" by Judy Greer... love her as an actress, and the book is super funny.
  3. "As You Wish" by Cary Elwes... love the movie and love the behind the curtain stories, and the audio features cameos by Rob Reiner, Mandy Patinkin and more.
  4. "Shrinkage" by Bryan Bishop... funny and sad and happy all in the same book.  If you only know him from Carolla, there's a lot more to this guy.
  5. "Stuff Christians Like" by Jonathan Acuff... taken from his blog, with some new stuff too, and is laugh out loud funny.
  6. "Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King... a whodunit thriller from King, with great characters and a crazy circus ending.
  7. "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell... tense and wrought, what he goes through is absolutely mortifying.
  8. "Rush Revere & the Brave Pilgrims" by Rush Limbaugh... I would take the history presented here over most schoolbooks nowadays.  Entertaining for kids and adults.
  9. "Note to Myself" by Writer Chris Holmes... line by line, page by page, words that make you smile, warm the fuzzies but also make you think you need to get up and do something.
  10. "Love Does" by Bob Goff... while slightly unrelatable, it's overall premise is wonderful.

And I'm almost five completed books in 2015, on the way to 40 total... do you have a book goal?  What was your favorite book of 2014?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

the 2014 book report part two

Picking up where we left off yesterday, here is the continued rundown of the books read (listened to) in 2014... the next ten are pretty amazing...

My 11th book of the year was one recommended immensely by so many people... "Love Does" by Bob Goff.  The whole premise of the book is that "Love does... everything".  It's about love when it comes to a relationship with God, how to share that love with everyone and anyone and Goff's life stories and lessons learned in life.  The only thing I didn't like was that sometimes, Bob is unrelatable.. in one story, albeit great, he talks about making his kids an offer that if they would write letters to leaders, he would take them to meet the leaders... so when a head of state from a Middle Eastern country writes back and invites the family for ice cream, they go.  Who does that?  Great story, but I know few people that could do that. 

The next 2 books were let downs... first, Daniel B. Kline and Jason Tomaszewski's "The Worst Ideas Ever" started fun, chronicling the worst public mistakes in history, like New Coke, Wendy's "Where's the Beef" fiasco and TV shows that jump the shark... but then it dives into politics and social affairs that derails the last third of the book.   Then, "Not a Match" by Brian Donovan, stories of the author's bad dates in a search of a relationship.  Good at times, boring at times, it was amusing but forgettable. 

Then, I picked up Carlos Whittaker's "Making Moments", and let me tell ya, it hit me.  This book resonated with me in a way that few books do.  I love this completely through, especially the one line that simply says:

I make moments on a daily basis, because I want to know that when life has decided it's had enough of me, it's gonna be because it's exhausted from trying to keep up.

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  That.  That's exactly my goal for being.  It's not very long, and it's a quick read... could be my favorite book of the year?  Maybe?  We'll see.

The next one off the shelf was another winner... Judy Greer's hysterical memoir, "I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star".  She's one of my favorite actresses, and to me, one of the most beautiful women in the business, so when I heard she had something coming out, I actually had it on pre-order (she joins Stephen King and Jon Acuff as the only three that I've ever pre-ordered on Audible), and started it the day it was released (and finished it the next day).  It's a riot.  Judy tells stories about movies, her co-stars, anecdotes about blind dates and random happenings in and around Hollywood... and she also talks about doing her own laundry, cleaning her own house and cooking the family dinner.  If Hollywood and/or celebrity and/or funny lady stories interest you at all, pick this one up.

An older John Grisham novel, "The King of Torts" came next, telling the story of a young public defender who takes on the case of a homeless dude accused of a random street killing.  But we know there is more to it than this, there is always more to it than this, and so the story unfolds, involving Big Pharma, large settlements and suspense all around.  And unlike many of his more recent works, the ending of the book was quite satisfying.

Then we get to Bryan Bishop's "Shrinkage: Manhood, Marriage and the Tumor that Tried to Kill Me".  He's known as "Bald" Bryan on The Adam Carolla show, one of the most popular podcasts in the world (and one I listen to daily) and he's also the co-host for another great show, The Film Vault (which I also listen to)... Bryan was diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer several years ago, and this memoir tells the story of his upbringing, his involvement with show business, radio, production and podcasting, his meeing of the love of his life, Christy, and then the discovery of, diagnosis of, and treatment of brain cancer.

On one hand, its a riot, as Bryan keeps it lighthearted, telling stories from his life, and on the other hand, its heart breaking as he and Christy spend hours, days in tears, unsure of the next step, as she--his fiance when diagnosed--loves him fiercely and takes care of him beautifully.  In many ways, its a love story as much as a biography of survival.  I listened to this while on the way to my hometown last year, to meet up with family and divide up my grandmother's (who helped raised me) belongings, so this story of life and love got me at just the right time. 

After three home runs (Whittaker, Judy, Bryan) and a double (Grisham), I was due for a strike out, and one came in the form of "Double Down" by Mark Halpern and John Heilemann, which is the recap of the 2012 elections.  They are the same guys who wrote the absolutely brilliant "Game Change", which was the 2008 elections, and though you can easily tell they are on the left wing side of the political aisle, "Game Change" was compelling story telling while not going too far left in its opinions.  Even a excoriating of Sarah Palin was permissable, as it also did a number on Hillary Clinton and especially John Edwards (full disclosure: I love Sarah Palin. Don't want her as my president, but love her still). 

"Double Down", however, is essentially one long love letter to Barack Obama.  Sure, it does give a little ding in the armor of The Big O, but it steamrolls Mitt Romney like crazy.  For every slightly negative remark on Obama--which it then makes up for by trying to explain it away--it blasts Mitt for any number of issues.  While it didn't surprise me, it was disappointing to have the book head south quickly, especially after "Game Change" was so great.

Book 19 of the year brought it back, with Stephen King's "Mr. Mercedes"... oh, so good.  While people line up at a job fair in the early morning hours, a driver plows a Mercedes Benz through the crowd, killing 8, injuring over a dozen more, especially after he backs up and charges again.  The car is found empty, the killer having gotten away.  He then sends a letter to retired cop Bill Hodges, taunting him with what has happened and promising more.  Bill pulls himself out of his depression and is determined to find the killer before more violence happens.  And unexpectedly, he's joined by a few people to help him do it.  It's not a horror story, its a good-vs-evil cat and mouse game, and it's well done. 

"American Me" is the name of Adam Carolla's third book,. and while I liked it, it's likely the least favorite of the three he's done so far.  It's his take on the American government, his rants against how stupid our country is right now, and how he'd fix it.  Obviously, its filled with language and insults, which is what makes him funny.  I enjoyed it, but "Not Taco Bell Material" is much better in my opinion. 

I was strangely drawn to "The Law of Superheroes", written by James Daily and Ryan Davidson, but I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it was the premise itself... taking comic book characters and some of their more popular storylines and see how they would fit in the American legal system.  Like, should Wolverine's adamantium claws be declared weapons when coming across the border?  Should Superman's X-Ray vision be banned as an invasion of privacy?  When Batman ties up a criminal and leaves him hanging, should that criminal be released immediately by the cops for unlawful capture?  How does Nick Fury get away with what he gets away with when leading S.H.I.E.L.D.?  When Captain America is killed, should his murderer be released from prison when Cap comes back to life? 

I know you have been thinking the same things... and I would tell you about it, but I don't remember how to.  It explains the legalese as it goes along, but it does get mired down in legal terms that had me struggling to keep up.  I loved this book as I was reading it, but forgot much of it after I finished it, because I'm not good at retaining the information. 

Not sure how I heard of Paige Rawl, but somehow I clued in on her biography "Positive".  She was born with HIV due to a bad father, and has had to live with that growing up.  She kept it a secret until early in middle school when she confided in her at-the-time best friend.  Somehow that best friend shared it with the wrong person, and it was then spread everywhere that Paige had AIDS.  She was then the subject of relentless taunting, teasing, bullying and so on, not only verbally, but through notes left in her locker, text messages she would get, phone calls and so on.  Worse yet, the school she attended would do nothing about it, almost considering it to be her fault. 

The book is heartbreaking and infuriating at the cruelness of kids (and especially teachers and people who could've helped) and sad when the low point involved a bottle of sleeping pills.  But when Paige emerges through the darkness... you knew she would... its cheer worthy and makes you smile.  Unfortunately, it's when the book turns really happy that the narrative itself drops off, so the last 1/4th of the book became a "gotta finish this", but the first 2/3rd of the book does make it worth it.

Book 23 of 2014 was a football book I found, called "The System: The Glory and Scandal of Bigtime College Football", by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian.  Each chapter takes another story and/or scandal from the world of college football and spells it out--from the hiring and firing of Mike Leach at Texas Tech for locking the player in a storage shed to how Alabama wrangled Nick Saban from the Miami Dolphins to the horrible way Lane Kiffen sold out his Tennessee hostesses when they (as the story goes) did exactly what the coaches asked them to do in recruiting to the horrible BYU rape scandal where (again, as the story goes) a few football players walked away unblemished while the girls were left to deal with it.

It does tell several great stories from BYU and other colleges as well, though, so it's not just a "football sucks!" book. I was thoroughly entertained.

After seeing the movie, I dove into "This is Where I Leave You" by Jonathan Tropper, and was delighted.  I don't read a ton of fiction, and even then, its either classic stuff I felt I should have read (I've been putting off Anne of Green Gables for two years), or by authors that I am very familiar with (King, Grisham, maybe now Gillian Flynn), so picking up a book by someone I'd never heard of was a little rare.  Of course, the movie helped, but still.

I loved this book all the way through.  Judd Foxman, his older sister Wendy, older brother Paul and younger brother Philip all come together for the first time in a long while to mourn their father who had just passed, all under the watchful eye of relationship author and over sexed mother.  Each of the siblings have their own issues, significant others, children and so on, and I found the characters to be rich and even while some are horrible people, they are still entertaining.  Great story.

My 25th book of 2014 was a quick read, as podcaster, author and speaker (and of course, Disneyphile) Lou Mongello released "102 Ways to Save Money For and At Walt Disney World", and being a Disney magic planner, I had to read it.  I actually read most of it while eating a solo lunch at the Ghengis Grill (the book was fun, the meal was meh), and for someone who has been involved in Disneyana for some time now, most of it was reminders.  For the newbies, its a lot of great information--and even has a bonus section of "40 Free Things To Enjoy, Eat, Do & Collect" which is fun and full of ideas.

Alrighty... tomorrow, just a few more to go.... PLUS, my top ten favorite books read in 2014...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

the 2014 book report part one

Way back in the day, I did a Top 100 of everything of the previous year... I decided to drop that idea with 2011 being the final year of that list.  Last year, to review 2013, I kinda just did a Top 10 of things like movies, books and such, and that worked as well.

This year, as I evolve the way I want to remember the previous year (because a blog isn't just for others, it's also so I can remember, because I can't remember much of anything anymore... who am I?), I decided to do something a little different.. my goal was to read 35 books this year, nearly everything done on audiobook format--and yes, I contend that it's "reading", because when I do have a paper book in my hand, I tend to scan or read too fast, and sometimes skip ahead.  I knew the fate of George Weasley three chapters before I even got there because I looked ahead... sad, I know, but some things are too unimportant to change.

When I have an audiobook, however, I listen intently, I can't skip ahead--well, I could, but it would be really complicated, and a crapshoot as I would just scroll ahead in time and hope that something important popped up when I stopped.

I keep a list of movies watched for the first time (that's a post coming soon) and books read, and I managed to get through 35 books this year, plus three that I started and never came back to.

I had to teach myself that it's okay to NOT finish a book... and that was a hard lesson, because naturally, if I start it, I want to complete it, no matter how terrible it was.   Having said that, out of the three I didn't finish, I only found one to be something I likely won't go back to--that is "One More Thing: Stories & Other Stories" by BJ Novak

You might know Novak from "The Office", or as one of the "Inglorious Basterds" or perhaps as one of the Sherman Brothers in "Saving Mr. Banks" from 2013... the book is a collection of... well, short stories written by Novak.  Stories that go nowhere.  Stories that I just could not get into.  Stories that I cared nothing about... so I stopped it and went to something else.

The other two are books that I will go back too, both are well over 15 hours, so the longer I wait, I may have to re-start them--"Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" (more boring than I thought it would be) and "Jim Henson", the biography that is really thorough.  Great, but thorough.  So I'll come back to them hopefully this year.

First book of the year... I started to reread "Harry Potter & the Sorcerers Stone", intending on reading the entire series, but somehow got derailed within the first chapter of the next book.   Already in 2015, I've started "Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets" and have put it down to grab another new book.  Anyway, I love the Harry Potter books and will eventually get to all of them.

Next book was "My Story" by Elizabeth Smart.  She was the chick who was kidnapped out of her home in 2002 by a deranged psychopath named Brian Mitchell and his equally insane Wanda Barzee.  It gives a first hand chronicle of her ordeal in capture, her psychological and emotional response to being held captive and her eventual discovery, rescue and recovery--even though you know she turns out okay, her rescue is still nail biting and tense.  Really well written, and the audiobook is read by Smart herself, with a great delivery.

Wanting to get to a something a little more lighthearted, naturally I picked up Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor".  Holy crap this book is brutal.  What Lutrell goes through in this ordeal is insane... stuck in a canyon wall crevasse for over 8 hours, barely moving, with his gun aimed, then crawling down and out, then crawling miles and miles and miles to get to what might be considered "safety".  The movie, starring Mark Wahlberg, was also very good, but doesn't come close to what Lutrell dealt with.  And with the emergence of "American Sniper", the story of the late Chris Kyle, coming out and having its validity called into question, it's comforting to know there is very little about Lutrell's book that has been disproven or refuted.

"Live from New York" was next, via audio, but unfortunately it was an abridged version.  I picked up the incomplete version against my better judgment and have decided I'll never do unabridged again on anything.  What's more, there is a newer, updated version of the book out now!

One of my favorite books of all time, "It" by Stephen King, was next on the list.  On audio, it tops out at about 42 hours or so, and this being the fourth reread lifetime, it was just as thrilling as I remember it.  Creepy, intricate, amazing. 

Rush Limbaugh, one of my favorite people, has written a series of books for children and young teens starring "Rush Revere", and this first one was called "Rush Revere & the Brave Pilgrims", the story of the founding and settling of America.  These books are known for their fun storytelling (including a talking horse named Liberty) and featuring bits of history that we have never heard due to his extensive historical research.  Loved this book.

I'm a fan of true crime fiction, especially when it comes to Dateline NBC and the Investigative Discovery channel, so it was fun to finally read the Truman Capote classic "In Cold Blood".  Written in the 60s, it takes a bit to adjust to it's style of investigation (as in, no DNA, no computers, etc), but its a serious, well written story of two brothers who massacred a family in Kansas.  Thankfully, it's a bajillionty times better than "Breakfast at Tiffany's", also by Capote, which I could barely get through.

Another Stephen King book, "The Long Walk", was on deck.  This was written under his famous pseudonym "Richard Bachman", and known as one of his first novels ever published.  The futuristic story of how teenage boys, once they reach a certain age, are forced to enter a walking style race... "race" is loosely defined, as essentially they have to walk on a marked highway, and the last one walking survives.  Move to slow, or stop and rest, and they kill you.  Good times had by all.  Very 70s sounding.

(this book would come back to haunt me on December 30th of 2014... see part three of the 2014 Book Report coming soon)

The 9th book of the year was "From Dreamer to Dreamfinder", written by the famous Dream Maker himself.  He's a legend at Epcot in Walt Disney World, in case all of this sounds vaguely familiar to Disney fans... or foreign to those who don't frequent the parks much.  He was the guy who walked around with Figment, greeted guests, granted wishes and so on.  He was a much loved character and figure, and Figment was a much loved Epcot icon.  I thought this book would have much more to do with Disney World, but his three or four years spent at Epcot was only a fraction of the book.  While his life is interesting enough, the book lost my attention at parts.

Book 10... it's chick lit.  Alice Clayton's "Unidentified Redhead".  Don't know how I got it, it might have been free on Audible, and the first few chapters were fun enough to pull me in.  Dig this--I don't mind a romantic comedy, which this seemed to be in book form... aging Hollywood star meets younger co-star, sparks fly, yada yada.  But about a 1/3 into the book, they started having themselves some relations.  Okay, I can deal with that.  The Lovely Steph Leann has been reading romance novels most of her life, so you know, whatevs.  But then a few pages later, the couple does it again.  and again.  And again and again and again.  I finished the book, because I just don't like to not finish a book, but yeesh.  There are two more in the trilogy, but I doubt I'll get to them anytime soon.

One of the few negatives about Audible is that when you grab a book such as "Unidentified Redhead", suddenly, Audible assumes you are now diving into the Chick Lit genre, so your "Based On This Purchase, We Recommend..." section is now filled with books you'll never read with covers that are too racy for daytime and titles that are filled with innuendos that you don't like.

Same goes for Netflix... as a co-host of "The Deucecast Movie Show", we sometimes watch crap movies... so my viewing of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" has destroyed my "Since You Watched..." credibility.

Okay, we'll stop here and pick up tomrorow.... more of the 2014 book report to come, including a stretch of books that get better and better and my favorite book of the year already...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

the 2014 golden globe recap

I love major award shows, especially when it comes to movies... okay, well, I don't watch the Directors Guild or the Producers Guild or the People's Choice or the Independent Spirit or the Palme D'or or the BET Awards or the Soul Glo Awards or the Latin Grammy show or whatever else... but I DO watch The Golden Globes and The Academy Awards.

In years past, I would live blog, tossing up thoughts, jokes, tweets and so on every few minutes.  But since we've had Campbell Isaiah, "live blogging" has a been a little more difficult.  It's not that The Lovely Steph Leann is opposed to it--in fact, she rather enjoys reading it the next day, and even while I'm blogging, she's made many a joke that has ended up in the published post.

No, Campbell has bathtime in the middle of the evening, and then he goes down for bedtime.  While The Lovely Steph Leann does the bath and bedtime, I will prep the room for his bedtime, get his PJ's laid out, then get some of my things gathered for the next day and so on.  However, I'm usually finished before he is asleep, so when we watch a live program like the Golden Globes, she asks me to pause it, so we can pick back up where we left off when she comes back downstairs.

And in the age of social media, to keep pace, it's harder to push pause--because the winners are revealed, the moments are tweeted and posted on Facebook, the pictures are on Instagram and so on... it's easy to say "Oh, then just don't look at social media until its over!" but that's hard to do when you yourself are live tweeting.

So, no live blog this year, but instead, a few highlights of the show...

  • Best joke of the night went Tina Fey & Amy Poehler, after they rattle off a list of accomplishments from Amal, George Clooney's new bride, and then say, "And tonight, we give her husband a lifetime achievement award."
  • Tina & Amy then went on to burn Bill Cosby while discussing the movie "Into the Woods", saying that, ''Cinderella runs from her prince, Rapunzel is thrown from a tower for her prince, and Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby.''
  • Both then do an odd Bill Cosby impersonation all about "putting the pills in the people."  The audience, in an awkward, but laughing, state, gasped then laughed more.  Personally, I thought the Sleeping Beauty line was gold, but putting pills/people schtick just wasn't that funny.  Not because of the subject, just because it wasn't that funny.
  • I do love me some Tina Fey, though.  Man she's gorgeous.
  • Jennifer Aniston was nominated as Best Actress in a movie called "Cake".  What the heck is "Cake"?  I don't know anyone who has actually heard of this film.
  • Margaret Cho came out dressed as a North Korean high ranking soldier, taking a picture with Meryl Streep, only to be photobombed by Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Gina Rodriguez won for the CW show "Jane the Virgin".  Who?  What show?  Huh? 
  • Jeffrey Tambor, veteran actor, won an award for a transgender character on the Amazon show transparency. 
  • Ruth Wilson won an award for the Showtime show "The Affair".
  • Essentially, alternative lifestyles and open marriages are the new hotness.  Straight people and committed relationships? Not so much.
  • Prince showed up.  Like the singer.  I can't say that I've ever heard him talk, and yet, there he was, simply saying, "Here are the nominees for Best Original Song"
  • Allison Janney, in the audience, was one of several who went a little batnuts crazy.
  • Oh, and Prince had a cane.  He didn't use it, he didn't walk with it, he just brought it with him. #BecauseHeIsPrince
  • Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, two normally very funny people, came out and did a bit where they recited lines from classic films, only the actually just made up the lines.  Many people felt this was the funniest non-Tina & Amy moment of the night.  Again... I just didn't think it was that funny.
  • George Clooney got the Cecil B DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award tonight.  It's so weird, because Jodie Foster got it a few years back at a then-age 50, while Clooney is 53. It's only weird because again, I grew up watching Clooney as he started his career on Facts of Life and "Return of the Killer Tomatoes".  Interestingly enough, those are two pieces of work that were not shown on his highlight reel.
  • This award is supposed to go to old people like Kirk Douglas and Cecily Tyson and Burt Lancaster (Kirk won it in '68, by the way), not to young folks like Clooney or Robin Williams (recepient in 2005) or Michael Douglas (got it in 2004) or Spielberg (2009). Sigh. I'm old.
  • Michael Keaton had a great speech, winning the award for "Birdman"... but I also liked Billy Bob Thornton's speech, simply saying that you can get in trouble for saying just about anything so "I'll just say 'thank you'".
  • Have you seen "Birdman"?  The movies is great, but the movie as a whole is outshone by a combo of brilliant performances from Keaton, Emma Stone, Zack Galafinikas, Naomi Watts and definitely Edward Norton.
  • When Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with) won an unexpected award for "Big Eyes", I tweeted the following:  AMY ADAMS AMY ADAMS AMY ADAMS AMY ADAMS.  My Timehop app posted a tweet this morning from last year, apparently when she won an award for "American Hustle".  I tweeted the following last year when she won:  AMY ADAMS AMY ADAMS AMY ADAMS AMY ADAMS.  Good to know my feelings are the same.
  • Everyone freaked out with Prince and John Legend both being out.  No one is talking about the fact that rapper Common... COMMON... has a Golden Globe.  It's like when Three 6 Mafia won the Oscar over U2 with "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp". 
  • Colin Firth came onstage.  Be still The Lovely Steph Leann's beating heart.  I think if he, Robert Downey Jr and Hugh Jackman ever starred in a movie together, she'd camp out for tickets--and she doesn't camp for anything.
  • There is a transparent NBC logo in the left bottom corner.  Everyone, mostly chicks, that wear sleeveless dresses or tops end up looking like they have a faded peacock tattoo on their arm.
  • Did NOT see that award for Best Animated Film coming.  "How to Train your Dragon 2" not only beat out Disney's latest, "Big Hero 6", but the heavily favored "The LEGO Movie".  I haven't seen Dragon 2, but I can already tell you it likely won't equal Baymax and Hiro's adventures, and will not be better than LEGO. 

And finally... here are my favorite tweets from the night...

"It makes me sad that a cummerbund company hasn't sponsored Benedict Cumberbatch's tuxedo for award shows yet. #GoldenGlobes" -- @jonacuff

"You can easily recreate Kerry Washington's dress with a little duct tape and a whole bunch of Capri Sun pouches. #DIY #GoldenGlobes" -- @JennaKimJones, as Kerry Washington literally shimmers onstage

"The clothes that 80s movies predicted we'd be wearing 2015... only Prince was listening. #GoldenGlobes" -- @RemodelingClay, on Prince's big appearance

"Prince you are making doves cry with that outfit. #GoldenGlobes" -- @LauraLeighC, on Prince's crazy outfit

"In the Globes control booth: 'Thank you Gambit. Iron Man, you're on!' #GoldenGlobes" -- @RottenTomatoes, as Channing Tatum introduced Robert Downey Jr

"Everytime Meryl Streep loses an award, her horcruxes grow stronger." -- @YrBFF, after she lost again.

"The Golden Globes should be, 'We all get paid because of superhero movies. Good night. Drive safely, everyone.'" -- @pourmecoffee

"The #GoldenGlobes folks use the word 'courage' a lot.  Glad I saw the #60Mins piece on Iraq/Afghan war amputees first." -- @IngrahamAngle

"If Oprah cries when you speak you automatically go to Heaven." -- @samir

"All these men get to throw on a tux over their winter fat.  These poor women haven't eaten in 35 days.  Life is unfair. #GoldenGlobes" -- @JenHatmaker

"So everything is NOT awesome?" -- @daltonross, when "The LEGO Movie" lost Animated Feature.

"Do you think if I use the Loreal shade that is 100% Puerto Rican that I can look like J.Lo? #GoldenGlobes" -- @jamiesrabbits

"I just got to second base with J-Lo's dress. #GoldenGlobes" -- @jenhatmaker

"Apparently it's 'Bring your tatas to work" night at the #goldenglobes. #AllTheGlobes" -- @IAmAmyLatta

 And my absolute favorite of the night...

@dawn_o_mite tweeted: "I often think Jessica Chastain has the career that Bryce Dallas Howard was expected to have 10 years ago."   That made me laugh long and heartily.

Ladies & gents, there are your 2015 Golden Globes. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

a message to the haters

"...No love for the haters, haters, mad cause I got floor seats at the Lakers, they see me on the 50 yard line with the Raiders..." -- Will Smith, "Gettin Jiggy Wit It"

The word "hater" is a funny thing. I guess the word has been around for a while, but only in the last few years as the concept of "hater" been around.  It's not necessarily someone who doesn't like what you are doing or where you are going, it's someone who doesn't like that if you are doing something great or headed in a great direction... thus, they are "hating on you", or are "haters".

I have a few.  You have a few.  You may have many, I don't know, but here in 2015, I wanted to speak directly to mine.

Dear Haters,

I don't care.  Not about you, anyway.

I used to.  I used to try and please everyone, and to some extent, I'll probably always do a little of that... but please you, the Hater, is something I don't have time for.

See, in 2015, I plan on being great.  Sure, it's a cocky thing to say, but so what.  No one plans on being mediocre... well, no one but you.  Perhaps you are a Hater because you don't like my personality.  Perhaps you are a Hater because you don't like my choice in career.  Perhaps you are a Hater because I talk too much, am too outspoken, you don't like my writing style, you don't like my podcasting voice, you think Disney sucks, you think anyone who likes Taylor Swift and admits it is a dork, you think that I'm responsible for my outspoken friends if they offend you...

See, Hater... that's just not my problem. 

The things I do... the things I say... I strive for those things to be purposeful... to invest... to be kind and encouraging.  No, I don't always succeed... in fact, I fail much more than I want to admit.  But sometimes, many times, I do get it done, I do succeed, I do accomplish... sometimes I fly.

And you, Hater, are the one who wants to tug on those wings to keep me from flying.  To tell me I'm not good enough, or that I don't deserve success, or maybe that I'm just a jerkface.

And that's okay.

I'm not trying to please you.  Not anymore.  Hate on me all you want.  And I'm guessing the more good things I do, the more people will join you.  Because I know you, Hater, I know that you hate because you can't get some things done yourself.  But see, that's not really my problem.  I'm too busy being awesome to worry about your shortcomings.  Too busy succeeding to worry about hating on you.

Don't get me wrong... I'm not perfect.  I have lots to work on, I have lots of things that need improvement, and there are a great number of things that I'm just not good at.  Heck, there are things that I know you would dominate me on every day, all day.  But it's those very things that I'm not good at that push me harder to improve on those shortcomings, and to get even better at what I am good at. 

So, in short, Hater, sit back. If you hated in 2014, I'm going to give you so much more to work with in 2015.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to continue gettin' jiggy with it.

Much love to the Haters,


PS... this entire letter almost said, "Dear Haters... I dont care... Love d$", but I thought that you deserved a little more. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

on the bookshelf

I just finished the last few minutes of "Full Dark, No Stars" by Stephen King... this is a milestone for me, as it's the 35th book read through in 2014... my goal was in fact 35, and after missing my goal in 2013 (I got to 27 of 30), it's rather exciting.

It almost didn't happen... I read Stephen King's "A Good Marriage" back in July, and earlier this week, started "Big Driver", also by King. I was horrified to learn that these aren't small books, they are in fact novellas, both a part of "Full Dark, No Stars", along with two other novellas. So I did what anyone would do... I downloaded it off of Audible, and read the three novellas--"1922", "Big Driver" and "Fair Extension"--that I had not read yet.

And yes, audiobooks is considered reading... I pay better attention, and I can listen/read while driving, doing dishes, laundry or at work. So there.

But that left a whole in the list? Take out "A Good Marriage" and add the whole set of "Full Dark No Stars", and I still only have 34... so I grabbed my copy of Lou Mongello's "102 Ways to Save For and At Walt Disney World", and read the last 20 pages... I've been reading it all along since it's release earlier this year. So I finished it, and it counts.

I'll go through those in an upcoming post, giving you the list of books I read, and my thoughts and recommendations on them.

But that leads us into 2015... my goal for 2015 is 40 books read. And though I don't have a complete list of books to read in 2015, after reading Jon Acuff's latest post, I decided a small list would be a great place to start... so though there will be at least 30 more on this list under the "already read it", here are the first 10 books I'll likely start with... in no particular order.

But first, here's a couple of re-reads on tap:

This book is part non-fiction, part embellishment,
part horror, part comedy, part strange, all
fantastic.  Like my life.
"Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil" by John Berendt... I haven't read this book in about 15 or 16 years, and remember loving the heck out of it. Ready to jump in early 80s Savannah.

"Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets" by JK Rowling... the first book of 2014 I read was "Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone", and my intention was to re-read the entire series. I try to do it about every 18 to 24 months or so, and I'm overdue now... but instead of "Chamber of Secrets", the second book I read was Elizabeth Smart's excellent "My Story". So, maybe the first book I'll read every year will be a Harry Potter book... or maybe I'll read the rest of the series. Guess we'll find out on January 2nd.

"'Salem's Lot" by Stephen King... my favorite of Stephen King's writings... or, maybe, my favorite one that I'll read and re-read--I think "It" is my favorite, but it's just so, so long that I can't just pick it up whenever.

Now... for the first time reads, these are likely to be my first 10 books read this year.

"Anne of Green Gables" by LM Montgomery... I do need to read more classics, and both this and "Great Gatsby" are on my list for 2015, but I'll likely read Anne first.

"Bossypants" by Tina Fey... I grabbed this one this past weekend, intending on this to be the final book of 2014, until I figured out my "novella" problem. So Tina, who I have really gotten a thing for in the last year or so, will have to wait a few weeks.

"Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn... She's the hottest thing going now in authors, with the explosion of "Gone Girl", but I've learned that it's sometimes the early work that ends up really standing out (see "The Firm" and "Time to Kill" by John Grisham)

"The Disneyland Story" by Sam Gennawey... I think (hope) this is the history of Disneyland, from construction to opening in the late 40s and early 50s. The preview makes it sound like it, but previews have burned me before.

"Do Over" by Jon Acuff... I'll admit it, I'm an Acuff Apologist. I really like the guy personally, and though he does write some boneheaded stuff sometimes, his writing really connects with me--perhaps its because he and I are about the same age and are in the same Pop Culture bubble, or maybe I started reading Acuff Astuff at the right time in my life, or maybe both. This will be released in April.

"Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother's Murder, John du Pont's Madness and the Quest for Olympic Gold" by Mark Schultz... there is a movie out there now with Steve Carell, who is getting wide acclaim, and Mark Ruffalo, who is getting some acclaim, and Channing Tatum, who is great in "This is the End", and I'd like to see it. I'm always intrigued by true-life murder mysteries, and I look forward to this one.

She is also the designer of the Purposeful
Planner that I posted on my Facebook page
and Instagram recently.
"Gray Mountain" by John Grisham... Anytime he releases a new book, I pick it, despite my better judgment. More often than not, I'm disappointed by the ending of a story that up until then, was a great tale. However, "Sycamore Row" was excellent from front to back, so we'll see what happens with this one.

"The Simplicity Project" by Corie Clark... I love it when my friends write books, though I then have to go get a copy (and I still need to get a copy of Justin Fisher's new book, "Crossroads: Subtitle Here", and read it in 2015), and my friend Corie wrote a dandy that will hit you in the head--all about decluttering and living much more simple than we all do.

"Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed... this is the book that has Reese Witherspoon in the title role for the movie adaptation. At publishing time of this column, I had not seen it yet, but look forward to the book.

"You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories and the Perfect Marriage of Sports & Televsion" by Al Michaels... When I heard that Al Michaels had a book coming out, I was kind of excited, because he has seen and done nearly everything sports related in the last several decades. Bob Ryan's book is also on my list, but I'll read Michaels book first.

So what about you?  What books are you definitely going to read first in 2015?  And if you said "Based on the stuff you are reading, you'll love ______", what would be in that blank?

Friday, December 26, 2014

top ten blogging in 2014

At the risk of being one of those blog sites who says "Hey, everyone come see how good I look!" or maybe "Hey, everyone come be moved by my brilliant words and the amazing way I put thoughts into verbal emotions!"... I thought this year's end might be a good idea to do something different.

For the first several years of the blogsite, maybe 2005 to 2011, I did a "Coolest 100 Things of the Year", and they were a collection of people, music, movies, events, life happenstances, books and more that I experienced or discovered for the first time in that particular year... and I'll honestly say, sometimes it was met with controversy over who/what got in, who/what got out, and a lighthearted look back for me turned into a little drama here and there, which made it not worth it. Oh, and I got lazy (what's new?) and even finished my favorite 100 things of 2011 IN the year 2013. I decided that was that for that segment.

But now, I look back at the year on the blog, and see that I've managed 85 posts (not counting this one). That number seems a bit inflated, as I participated in--and succeeded--in a challenge that had me blogging 33 straight days from late September to early November. Considering that is more blogging than I did from March thru September in total, "85" is a deceptive number, but here we are anyway.

January set forth my first writing challenge of the year, where I attempted to write an average of 500 words per day for the month. Then I set my goals for the year 2014, in Part One and then Part Two... and will probably give a post next week to let you know how I did (batting .300 is great in baseball right? Why can't it be okay for real life?).
As I mentioned before, October brought a 31 Day writing challenge, which I #humblebrag in saying that I more than completed. There are other challenges I failed to meet, like my attempt to take on the 100 Happy Days phase that is/was all over Instagram and Facebook, and what I was to call "My Summer of Happy", with 100 posts about things I enjoy. But I've come to learn that I can't give myself a topic, such as "Happy things", and expect myself to blog about that same topic for post upon post upon post... mostly because I'm all over the map, as anyone who has been here more than a few times will see.

So, for anyone new to the blog, or if you just want the good stuff, here are the ten posts this year that I really, really liked. And that's not including my homage to the late, great Casey Kasem... thoughts on Clint Eastwood's "Any Which Way You Can"... thoughts on Pitbull both here and here (yes--TWO posts about Pitbull. What.)... and writing with and without a filter.

2014's Top Ten, as chosen by me, based not only on popularity but also how much pride I had in it when re-reading it..

10... We decided to start (or, start again for the 10,000th time) on our spring cleaning. And when you have a pile of junk in the garage, it's worth documenting some of the strange things you come across. My friend Writer Chris Holmes said this was one of his favorite posts I've ever written... for pictures of not only rubber chickens and Microsoft 2003, but also the General Lee, here's "Things We Found In the Garage" from January 5th.

9... Sometimes as a writer, you just have to write, and sometimes it doesn't make any sense at all. Sometimes it's just a bunch of random words late at night that for whatever reason, a bunch of people tell they read and laughed at and enjoyed. What did I write? Nothing but the "Things Carly Simon Made Me Say Late at Night" from January 27th.

8... The fervor of the "Washington Redskins is a racist nickname" hit a fever pitch this past summer and I sat back and watched carefully, deciding where I fell on the issue (which is, that "Redskins" is not racist, or if it is, it's suspect to suddenly come after it now, after all this time). However, when a select few members of the University of Mississippi release a report saying how they are offended by the school's "Rebel" mascot... well, I just had to join in and declare "Ole Miss is Racist!". From August 9th.

7... I think one of my favorite posts from the last several years was actually one written in 2013, all about inclusion, which I'm passionate about (and likely fail miserably at doing). Another story was brought up in my mind this past spring, as I noticed on Facebook a high school friend of mine was having a birthday. I hadn't thought about him in years, and yet, the story of "Kenny Weeks & Wall Street Football" came rushing back--and had to be shared. From March 5th.

6... I love discussing pop culture, and I love making lists. So when I can do the two of them together, and talk about OutKast, Garth Brooks, Expose, Bob Seger, Janet Jackson, Taylor Swift, Fergie and more, I do it. All are including in my "Playlist for Hustla's", from January 17th.

5... With recent events in my own life (that I cannot share right here on this site, but you are welcome to ask about it), the words "leap of faith' stand out strong in my heart and mind. So re-reading this one made me smile. Because sometimes, you just have to get on that skateboard of life and ride... worried about safety? Remember that "You Can't Be Safe on a Skateboard". From February 4th.

4... Sometimes its the memories we have from our childhood that resonate with us 30 years later, much like this story from Samson Elementary, involving GI Joe, Wonder Woman and an unnamed kid who's spoils fuel the creativity of an unpopular 5th grader. It's all about getting "Clarity from an Invisible Jet", from February 10th.

3... Every year on his birthday, I make a note to Campbell, something I hope he will read when he gets older. This year's letter was popular with readers. From November 30th, "To Campbell, on Your 3rd Birthday" (his b'day is December 1st, it just got published literally 20 minutes from midnight, giving it a 11/30 publish date instead of a 12/1 date. Details, details.)

2... Ah, marriage. And pride. And pride in marriage can be a bad thing sometimes. It's a little story about butting heads as a husband and wife, and a lesson that "Pride Goeth Before the Squeeze" from February 24th.

And my favorite post of the year that I've written...

1... Autism is tough. It's a hard thing to push through, and it's tempting to wallow in parental misery about all the things you are missing. But one thing we are learning, re-learning and telling ourselves over and over is that The Lovely Steph Leann and I have to remember to "Don't Mourn the Can't, Instead Love the Can"

So there ya go... if you like one or more of those posts, then you'll enjoy the blog. If you clicked on a couple and decided "this guys sucks!", then I have a feeling this blogsite won't be for you. But you should come anyway, in case I write something that you do like! 

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 22, 2014

the gift of the mayo

We have a friend named Rachel. She's in her 20s, and adorably cute--I used the word "mousy" once as a compliment, and thankfully, she took it as just that. She's been married to her soulmate boo Brett for many months, and The Lovely Steph Leann and I really enjoy her company when she's in town.

A few weeks ago, she was in fact in town, working on a local conference, and let us know where she'd be. Obviously, we made plans for dinner, and while The Lovely Steph Leann couldn't make it, our friends McQ and her new hubby JP came, as did our friend Amy McL... we agreed to all meet up with Rachel at the brand new Newk's eatery that had opened the week prior.

And it was a grand time, with laughter and love, fellowship and friendship, with old friends like Mc!, Amy McL and myself sharing tales of many days before, while new friends like JP listened intently and chimed in, and Rachel shared her own stories of her job and her new married life. 

I had Campbell Isaiah with me as well, and Rachel and Campbell have formed a friendship... well, sort of. When she stayed at our house a few months back (on the eve of McQ's and JP's wedding, no less), Campbell took to Rachel immediately. While she tried to work on a project on our dining room table, he kept coming up to her, interrupting her with his cuteness. She would hug him, or play with him, or show him a little love, then turn back to her project... and then a few minutes later, here he comes bounding up again. The Lovely Steph Leann would call for him to step back, to let her work and to quit bothering her, but Rachel insisted it was no bother--and I believed her.

She and Brett have no children of their own, and will probably "be married" for a while before they do, but more than once she's told me that she wants a baby sooner than later. So the notion of Campbell coming up and showing her attention is just a little slice of paradise here on Earth for Rachel Mayo.

Granted, Campbell does do this kind of interaction with a few other people--but it is only a few people. He's not shy, but he doesn't just love on just anyone. Don't know his criteria yet, but Rachel meets it.

I can't tell for sure, but when he saw her again a few weeks back, I'd like to think he remembered her, and in fact did give her a little Campbell Kiss (which is, take the pacifier out, lean over, plant his lips somewhere on your face--usually your lips, but it can be your cheek, nose, chin or elsewhere--put the paci back in and turn away like "that's all you get, so enjoy it"). Usually I have to say "Campbell, give ____ a kiss" for him to do it--with Rachel, he did it on his own.

So it's easy to say out of the hundreds of people I've become friends with through social media networks, Rachel is someone who has connected with our family more than most. Yes, we met Rachel through Facebook... and it's hard to explain, so I just won't try right now.

Campbell is a very sensory oriented child. He knows how to work a cell phone like crazy, as he flips through apps and can take pictures (not very good ones, but on par with some that are on Facebook pages belonging to the 19 year old who bought an expensive DLR camera and decided to come up with a catchy name for their newly opened photography business, despite not even knowing what DLR stands for--can you tell I find this to be extremely funny?) and he loves the stocks applications, where he watch the lines up and down, and things refresh.

Currently, he has an iPhone 3 to call his own, though it's a little older and worn, and it's battery dies down fast from the three or four straight hours of use he gives it at one time.

The crown jewel of gifts for Campbell would be an iPad. He is in therapy at a local place here in town, and they use iPads during their sessions to teach various things. While the iPhone becomes like a babysitter sometimes for Campbell, an iPad would be an invaluable learning tool, once we get the right apps on it.

But they are expensive, which is why we haven't gotten him one yet. 

So imagine my surprise when Rachel did.

At the end of dinner, Rachel pulls out a bag and says, "This is for Campbell's birthday! Happy birthday Campbell!" I smiled, thinking a book or a toy of some sort, and appreciative of Rachel's thoughtfulness. I debated about whether to open it there or wait til later, but decided to open it there--I pulled out the green tissue paper, and grasped something that felt firm like a large book, but cold to the touch.

I pulled it out, pulled back the tissue and there was a silver iPad in my hands. I looked at it, and looked at Rachel, back to the iPad and back to Rachel. I simply said, "This is an iPad? Rachel... I mean..."

She smiled and quickly explained that they had gotten new versions, and she wasn't sure what to do with that one. She apologized for it having her name on the back, said that she knew it would help Campbell to have one, and then added for good measure, "I wouldn't want anyone else but Campbell to have it." 

For one of the few times in my life, I was rendered nearly speechless. I stammered a few words of something, then wiped a couple of tears away noticed how badly my allergies were acting up, and how much dust was in the restaurant.

She got our son an iPad. It was as good as brand new, it's in nearly flawless condition and it looks amazing. A little boy who she only knows from pictures on Facebook, from the stories I briefly tell on social media and on this blog, she has taken to her own heart to love, and to encourage and love on myself and The Lovely Steph Leann...

...who, by the way, had much the same reaction when she opened the bag at home. She was nearly floored too, and was nearly speechless as well. 

By the way, we haven't given it to him yet. Two things we are waiting on--first, to get a cover for it. No parent gives their children any sort of electronic anything without some sort of protective casing to go on it. Second, we are waiting to talk to his therapy teachers to find out the best way for Campbell to use it. Like I said, the iPhone is really for play, so we want the iPad to serve a real purpose.

And no, I haven't used it for my own benefit. Not saying I won't watch a movie with it or something in the future, but it is in fact Campbell's iPad, and even is now labeled that once you plug it into iTunes.

Anyway... thank you, Rachel. You are beautiful and wonderful, and we love you greatly. We hope you have an incredibly awesome Christmas, take care of that man of yours, and you'll always have a place to stay when you come to town. And a little boy who will greet you with a hug and kiss. 

Find Rachel's Etsy shop, Rachel B Designs, by clicking here.
You can find her on Twitter @rachelcmayo and on Instagram @rachelbodinemayo

Sunday, November 30, 2014

to campbell, on your 3rd birthday

Dear Campbell,

Celebrate! Today you are three, count 'em, three years old! Your Mom and I were just saying to each other a few minutes ago how we can't believe that three years have gone by since the day you were born. 

So, let's talk about the last year, since I wrote you a note for your 2nd birthday... movies? My favorites of the year are, as typical as it may seem, superhero films, like "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Captain American: the Winter Soldier" and Disney's "Big Hero 6". Christopher Nolan directed this grand space epic called "Interstellar", and it looks awesome and is in fact, just average. A little seen movie came out this summer called "Snowpiercer" that I recommend you find and watch... it's pretty amazing. And of course, "The LEGO Movie". There might be five of them by now, but the original is pretty great.

The music that really hit big, for me anyway, was the Cuban rapper named Pitbull, who had a song called "Fireball", which made me smile all year. This chick named Jessie J teamed up with this other chick named Ariana Grande and made this rockin' pop song called "Bang Bang", which I'm addicted to. Neither me nor your mom like the Nicki Minaj part... and honestly, when you do read this, I wont be surprised if you have no clue who Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj are, because nowadays, musicians come and go quickly. Even the ones thought to have had staying power fizzle fast--Lady Gaga, anyone?

You, getting ready for school
Back to music, Meghan Trainor had this catchy little ditty called "All About that Bass", but do me a favor, either find my iPod or head to YouTube and look up the version by Scott Bradley and the Postmodern Jukebox, featuring Kate Davis. If you appreciate this version even more than the original, I'll know I raised you right.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a little album called "1989" by Taylor Swift, featuring what is sure to be a classic called "Shake It Off". Enjoy.

We've seen you grow a lot this year, Monkey Butt. We've gotten you involved in more therapy and group sessions, and you are signing like crazy now... you have the sign for "more" down pat, and you use it without restraint when it comes time to eat. More. More. More. And on and on.

You have learned how to sign "open" as well, and frankly, its adorable. I think you are on the verge of actually jumping up and down, but you aren't quite there yet. No, you aren't talking just yet... but you babble incessantly. On one hand, its incredibly cute and encouraging... on the other hand, sometimes at 6am, it's a little much for me to deal with. I wish you'd pick your times more selectively about when you decide to loudly start talking your language. 

You rode your first roller coaster this year... in fact, a few weeks ago. It was all kinds of amazing, by the way. When we were in Disney World at the beginning of November... and can I say, you've just had your second Disney World haircut already--you've been to WDW three times and Disneyland once, which is about four times more than many people go in their lives.

Anyway, you were just tall enough to ride The Barnstormer, a small kids coaster in Storybook Circus in New Fantasyland. Your mom, Pops and myself were a little nervous taking you on, but you sat with Mommy, and as the coaster car slowly made it's way up the hill, I could hear you. You were giggling, you were squealing, you were laughing and having the time of your life. I wiped away tears, as my smile nearly broke my face.

The Cast Members then let you ride again, this time with me. I heard your laughter and delight up close this time, and felt you pat my arms in excitement, and watching your face and you smile and laughed, looking around at the bright lights of the Disney World night, staring in wonder. And the Cast Members, one of them almost crying herself when she heard our little story of who you were and how this was your first coaster, let us ride twice more. This time you rode with Pops and you couldn't get enough.

You laughed at the teacups, and you even recognized some characters, as you smiled big when you saw Tigger bouncing on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride. This was a huge thing for all of us, but especially for you.

Campbell, you are our son, and we love you so much. And you are loved not just by your Mom and Dad, or your Pops and GG or aunts and uncles or your Granny and PawPaw, but by so many other friends and people, some of whom have never even met you, but only seen your picture and heard the amusing stories and the funny stories and the heartbreaking stories. 

The teacups... I love spinning you around, kiddo.
You are prayed for more than you will ever realize, by so many people. My first and foremost prayer, even in front of you coming through the autism that hinders you, is that you will find Christ one day, and know He is your Savior. Everything else is just blessings under the bridge. Though I do pray that what keeps you held back--you are three today, but still at around a 15 month level developmentally--will just fade away. I am positive it will, I am positive you'll catch up to everyone and positive that you will live the life that He has for you.

I just hope you can look back where you are as you read this and know that your Mom did all she could for you and that I tried as hard as I could as well.

You are handsome, you are strong, you are a whiz (anyone who has seen you move two chairs into position so you can properly climb them in order to reach a cell phone hidden in the middle of the dining room table will attest to this) and you are a mischievous little boy, just like all other three year olds.   By the way, your fascination with phones and tablets is a little crazy... hopefully, by now, you've learned that just because you see a phone, that doesn't mean it's yours. 

But you know your way around one... it's funny to watch you play with one, swiping and moving things around.  And for whatever reason, the stocks app fascinates you.   Oh, and this year, you also learned to paint... "He takes his time with the brush," says your teacher.

Told you that you were smart. 

Three years old looks great on you, Campbell Dollar. 

Love you, Monkey Butt

--your Dad

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

hey thanks

It's Thanksgiving time once again! From outta nowhere, the holidays are bearing down on our faces, because for some reason, Christmas is in December this year. Doesn't it feel like 2014 just barely got started? I'm not sure I'm finished with 2013 yet, and all of sudden, I have to deal with 2014 going away forever.

So here's something I've never done and thought it might be fun to do... give thanks. I've given thanks before here and there, but I figured I'd go big or go home... 100 thanks in a single post. Let's go!

First, let's get the big ones out of the way... my Savior, Jesus Christ (1), for whom it's all for. I hope my words encourage in a way that pleases Him. The Lovely Steph Leann (2), the best helpmate I could ever ask for, because she gave us Campbell Isaiah (3), who is a pretty special kid--he turns 3 in a week! What!

My job is secure (4) and that's a big deal. And it's not hard work either (5), which means when I go home, work stays at work (6) which makes for very low stress. And of course, there is my other job, being a Disney Travel Planner, and I am so excited to put more time into doing it! (7). Cause I'm good at it.

Here's a few things/people to be thankful for this year...
I mean, there is so much to be thankful for, so many blessings all poured into my own life. Things are looking up (8) more than ever... Campbell is making great strides in his development (9). No, he's not talking yet, but he's in a solid Mother's Day Out program at CASA (10) and in a great therapy program at Mitchell's Place (11). Insurance is covering much of the cost (12), so that's a huge answered prayer for us. He's signing more (13), and he is much more directional than he used to be (14), like when he leads me to the recliner, then pushes me to sit down, just so he can sit in my lap. That's worthy of a thanks (15).
We paid our car off this year (16) so that helps our budget tremendously, and it's one piece that's helping us form our plan for me to go full time with Disney Travel Planning (17). But I'll get into that later.

Got a new phone this fall (18), bumped up to an iPhone 5, which is nice. I love voice texting (19) though autocorrect is a bit of a hassle sometimes.

The San Antonio Spurs won the NBA title (20) for the fifth time, and the Baltimore Orioles made it into the baseball postseason (21). Can't say I have much thanks for the Florida Gators OR the Troy Trojans for the way they have played this year, but both Florida (22) and Troy (23) are looking at new coaches next season, so it's time for a re-start. Overall, though, the college football season has been incredible (24) and anyone who thought this four-team playoff would ruin the regular season is crazy, because it's done nothing but heighten the importance of dozens of games (25) that by now, wouldn't mean much except for bowl positions. And, of course, even though I didn't make the playoffs of The DFC, the football pick'em that I've run for now its 15th season, its still be a great season (26). Congrats to Big Eddy McBroom and Steven Ray for making DeuceBowl XV, set for this weekend.
I can also give thanks for the movies (27) and most notably, The Deucecast Movie Show--we are on a digital network now, Shotglass Digital (28) which is like being picked up for syndication. Pretty exciting... new episode dropped today (Tuesday) and is all about our own movie thanks. We owe a big thanks to the hosts of the TechnoRetro Dads podcast, especially one of the hosts who calls himself Shaz (29), and I am very thankful for my own co-hosts Mikey (30) and Pinky (31) and the rest of the Deucecast team, like Tommy Mac, Shawn and our endless rotating guests (32).

The blog is going strong (33), by the way, for which I'm thankful for. I successfully made it through the entire month of October, blogging every day (and some extra) and made it like, 32 days straight (34)... which, if you've followed this blog long, you'll know I've tried similar challenges and have failed miserably. My friend Corie Clark (35) really pushed me on this, along with a few others, so thanks for that. Corie, by the way, wrote a fabulous book about making life simple, called "The Simplicity Project". Full disclosure, I have't read all of it yet. But I've followed along on the challenges online, and will have it read and impletmented by years end.

If I get on the subject of friends, I could be here forever... but I'll tell ya, there are a few people who have really made me a better version of d$. Remodeling Clay host Clay Shaver (36) is a solid guy, as is Writer Chris Holmes (37) (who has his own book, mind you). A fellow named David Mike (38) is an extremely good encourager in all that I, and others, do, and his story is pretty incredible.

Thanks to Rachel Mayo (39) for being awesome--and extremely photogenic. No kidding, that chick can look great in an Instagram picture. May Bohon (40) likes to check in on me, which I appreciate, and Angie Buchanan (41) has also been pretty gracious to me and the family this year as well. And Amy Campbell (42), master of LinkedIn and owner of a resume company called the Red Checker, has also been pretty great to me this year.

I always have thanks for My Best Mate Wookiee (43)... I have been able to chat again with my friend Nikki (44) and my friend Laura (45)... and funnily enough, doing Disney Travel has helped me reconnect with my long lost friend Rebecca (46). I get a kick out of reading my friend Missi's (47) posts (she's one of my favorite people on social media.  and gorgeous)... I'm thankful for the new friends in our lives, like the Kilgores (48) and the Rileys (49) that we haven't gotten to know... for the returning friends, like the Tucks (50) who returned to our lives... long time friends like DeNick & DeLisa (51) who are always helpful and generous... and the friends who have been here all the time, like the Rays (52), and Hurricane Rhett and Amarilys by Morning (up from San Antone) (53) and all the other families that we love (and love us) at Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) (54). 

Also, I've planned trips for three different women that I dated in college (and their families). I wasn't saying "hey thanks" for that, I just thought it was worth a mention.

So thankful for Taylor Swift's new CD "1989" (55) and of course, "Shake It Off" which is my Song of the Year thusfar. Then again, it comes out just ahead of Pitbull's "Fireball" (56), which I blast everytime it comes on. But lest we forget Colbie Caillet's new CD (57), which is marvelous in it's own right. And Garth Brooks is back (58) and better than ever. Thanks Garth. You are the man.

My friend Teri Mo (59) made one of the best comments (60) I've ever had bestowed upon me, saying (paraphrasing), "I think d$ is great at getting his political points across, he's never disrespectful, he tries to stick to facts and I appreciate that." Fabulous comment.

We discovered a new place to eat this year, Urban Cookhouse (61), which is awesome. It's up at the Summit, and we frequent it about once per month. And to top it off, we are pretty fond of Steel City Pops popsicles (62), which The Lovely Steph Leann and I have probably had about 300 each so far this year. Addiction is a bad thing, kiddies.

You know what else I'm thankful for? Whataburger Patty Melts (63) without the onions. It's so, so good.

I'm still very thankful for Walt Disney World (64) and all the dreams and opportunities it holds. Campbell rode his very first roller coaster there, The Barnstormer (65) and it was truly magical, as he laughed and giggled and squealed the whole time. We went a few weeks back with The Lovely Steph Leann's parents, Big Daddy Ron and Mama Ruthless (66), and had a pretty great time. I'm thankful our room wasn't that expensive and was pretty large in size, and it was comfortable... I had stayed in Art of Animation (67) before, but everyone else was enjoying it for the first time.

The food is always great, as the Epcot Food & Wine Festival was going on, but the best part was the Captain's Grille (68) at the Yacht Club, likely my favorite meal of them all.

I'm thankful for my friend Aimee Sale (69), a fellow travel agent, who has been willing to help answer questions on the fly when needed, as well as my own agency owner, Frances (70), who has been an amazing travel agency lead.

My friend McQ (71) got married (72) this fall! It was a long time coming, I think, for her and her boo Jason, and it's so great to see them so happy... and I was honored they asked me to help announce (73) and I was thankful to be a part of the festivities.

The Republicans won the Senate in a landslide election (74). I'll say that I'm thankful for that, but I'll hold off on any further apprecation until I see what they will do... or won't do. You know what, they make me nervous (-74). I'll say I'm thankful that we live in a country where we can elect our leaders (74).
Survivor (75) is good this season. And The Lovely Steph Leann has got me watching HGTV, and I'm kinda hooked on "Flip or Flop" (76).

I'll always be thankful for my iPod (77) which helps me get through the day. From Adam Carolla (78) to Alison Rosen (79) to Rush Limbaugh (80) to the bevy of Disney World Podcasts (81) I listen to, I'm thankful I have it here. (82) also is owed a thanks. I've been a customer for years, and this year have been able to pick up gems like the memoir of one of my favorite, Judy Greer (83), and listen to Stephen King's "Mr. Mercedes" (84), which is excellent. The Harry Potter audiobooks (85) will always be some of my favorites because of the masterful performance by Jim Dale (sadly, not on Audible--I had to get them from the library).

I'm thankful that my home is less than one and a half miles from my office (86)

I'm thankful that I was able to give up three months of no sodas, called the #NoSoda30 (87). I drink some Coke now, but I've curbed my consumption.

I'm thankful my mama still loves me (88).

I'm thankful for my extended family, both with Randy & Angie, my bro/sis-in-law, and kids (89) and my other bro/sis in law, Tyler & Brynn (90).

I'm thankful that yesterday I spilled a little grease from an Arby's cheese stick on my pants and got juice from some squash on my shirt... and that was the extent of my Monday worries (91)

I'm thankful I can still afford to splurge a little and frequent Kingdom Comics (92)

I'm thankful that I got to spend a weekend at the Alabama Phoenix Festival (93) downtown, a nerd convention that I actually sat on discussion panels for.

I'm thankful for Sharpies (94). They rule.

I'm thankful for the WWE Network (95), allowing me to watch every Pay Per View without the expensive price--and the fact that Sting (96) showed up at Sunday's Survivor Series.

I'm thankful for Doug Benson's Doug Loves Movie podcast (97), perhaps my favorite podcast. Oh and for Serial (98), which is an amazing podcast experience. 

I'm thankful that another year is almost over--not for the time has gone by, but that life is good (99).

And I'm thankful for you (100), for reading this blog as much as you do.  You don't have to, yet you keep coming back, and I appreciate it more than you know.  You fulfill the "writer" part of my "writer/blogger/podcaster/travel specialist" bio.

Finally... if you read this, and you wonder "Where am I?" (like my friend Katie (101), who is likely to text me and say "Where am I?"), then consider this number-- 102 -- that you are in.  Thank you. 

And Happy Thanksgiving.

Update... I completely forgot to mention this, and realized it a day after I posted this column... thank you to the men & women in the armed forces who are protecting us right now... thank you to the police, emergency and fire department workers who are keeping us safe as well... and thank you to those behind the retail counters, either being forced to work because of a crap schedule or because you need the money badly... thanks for doing it.